A Lesson to Learn from the Hurt and Angst in “Du hast den Farbfilm vergessen”


After 16 years of service, German Chancellor Angela Merkel finally bade farewell of her post at her Großer Zapfenstreich, the highest military ceremony in Germany. The ceremony comes along with the military marching band performing three songs upon her request. Merkel chose the songs, “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name”, an 18th-century hymn, “It Shall Rain Red Roses for Me” by Hildegard Knef, and the most brow-raising of them all, “Du hast den Farbfilm vergessen” (You Forgot the Color Film). The 1974 punk song by Nina Hagen was deemed an unlikely choice that surprised plenty of the audience.

A lot of speculations go on, but we are more interested in what this song is all about and its relatability for the film photographers and lovers of analogue. Allow us for this rare occasion to pen a little song study, indulge ourselves in finding out what’s the big deal about forgetting the color film, and the lesson we can learn from the song.

Credits: katinkaja & gingerfish

The song is a known punk anthem by Nina Hagen. The speaker of the lyrics angrily expresses to her significant other for forgetting to take a color film with him while on their vacation at the ever-popular Hiddensee, a German island on the Baltic Sea. “Michael”, as the lyrics characterize, only took a roll of black and white film. If Michael was to repeat the same mistake, Nina warns him she will leave him.

Do that again Micha and I'll go / Tu das noch einmal Micha, und ich geh
You forgot the color film, my Michael / Du hast den Farbfilm vergessen, mein Michael

And it hurts her so much. The lyrics are very direct in showing just how upset Nina is.

My bare foot stamped the sand so badly / So böse stampfte mein nackter Fuß den Sand
And I slapped your hand off my shoulder / Und schlug ich von meiner Schulter deine Hand
Micha, my Micha, and everything hurt so much / Micha, mein Micha, und alles tat so weh
Credits: paperstreet, gingerfish & katinkaja

And now we ask again: why was forgetting the color film such a big deal? The speaker actually shares how the memory would now appear less as accurate. The 1970s is known to be the burgeoning of color photography, as more people used color film as the norm for personal snapshots. Its accuracy to capture colors of reality safeguard our impressions and memories, and extends the capacity of human recollection and imagination. It’s more than safe to assume that the singer of the song is also aware of this.

Now nobody believes us how nice it was here haha, haha / Nun glaubt uns kein Mensch, wie schön's hier war haha, haha
You forgot the color film with my soul / Du hast den Farbfilm vergessen bei meiner Seel'

The lyrics then share how fleeting the colors appear to be when we no longer live in the said moment. Interestingly, she deems the beach scenery (the colors mentioned vividly indicate this) to be “no longer true”. Memories are ephemeral.

Everything blue and white and green and later no longer true / Alles blau und weiß und grün und später nicht mehr wahr
Credits: katinkaja & gingerfish

In another verse, we receive a new scene of the couple. Now back from their vacation, the lyrics tell us that the black-and-white film from the trip was already developed. The singer revisits their vacation through their photographs as they prepare to curate the memory in a photo album. Nina recounts the details of the memory very sharply…

Now I'm back at home with you and me / Nun sitz ich wieder bei dir und mir zu Haus
And choose the photos for the photo album / Und such die Fotos für's Fotoalbum aus
Me in bikini and me in nudism / Ich im Bikini und ich am FKK
I'm cheeky in the mini, landscape is there too, yes / Ich frech im Mini, Landschaft ist auch da, ja
But how terrible, the tears are rolling down hot / Aber, wie schrecklich, die Tränen kullern heiß
Credits: vita-reducta, katinkaja & gingerfish

Yet in the end, Nina still feels remorseful. What truly captures us as we give this song another listen, is the singer lamenting over how everything “just” turned into black and white. Nina seems to have a harder time looking back at their memories as fondly because of how less vibrant her memories appear to be.

Landscape and Nina and everything just black and white / Landschaft und Nina und alles nur schwarzweiß

It’s important to reiterate that during this time, color photography was becoming the norm for the masses and their families. From the usual black-and-white culture, people have evolved and desired more accurate and vivid representations of their memories.

On behalf of Michael and dedicated to Nina: a very colorful gallery of film photos taken at Hiddensee

In this context, it is very easy to sympathize with Nina and the hurt she’s felt for Michael’s forgetfulness, and lack of keenness. The song also implies, at least from Nina’s point of view, that she values more of their shared memories being honored and safely kept, more so than Michael.

Michael may not have truly intended any harm and upset to Nina... but one thing is for sure. Do save yourself from spoiling a beautiful trip for you and your beau: always pack with you a couple of color negative films.

Here’s the original music video of Nina Hagen’s "Du hast den Farbfilm vergessen” (You Forgot the Color Film) to take you back in time!

To all the film photography lovers in the world, how would you record your holiday vacations and trips? Are you like Nina who prefers color negative films, or are you like Micha, who sees black and white photography just as good for personal photography? Or maybe you'd choose something entirely radical? Let us know your analogue way of capturing those intimate and personal memories in the comments below!

written by cielsan on 2021-12-06 #culture #videos #nina-hagen #du-hast-den-farbfilm-vergessen #you-forgot-the-color-film


  1. berlin-runner
    berlin-runner ·

    Thank you for this nice article :)
    I love that little island - in black & white or color - like my Hiddensee collection:

  2. klawe
    klawe ·


  3. colrim
    colrim ·

    Such an amazing insight!
    Thank you !

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